Lauryn Williams Quick to Lend a Hand

Story written by EPelle

Lauryn Williams, the reigning world outdoor 100m champion, is not just swift with her feet.

Williams, who was recently named the Visa Humanitarian Athlete of the Year by USA Track & Field, knows her life-long journey will not end at a finish line, but beyond - well beyond - in cities across America where people may need an extra push, and are in need. Her focus on helping others was also recognised by the NAACP Detroit Chapter, which presented Williams as an honourary guest at the 51st Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner on 2006-April-30.

exemplifies the leadership qualities and commitment to excellence we want from our young people today,” stated NAACP Detroit Chapter officers.

“It is highly commendable for a person of such a young age to possess such determination, high morals and character. We honor her as a role model who we all – young and old – can learn from” (link).

She was featured in a Miami Herald article yesterday (link) which keenly focused on Williams' drive to give to those in need, and to help those behind her get a chance to make greater strides toward the future.

''I wasn't abused or abandoned or neglected or anything like that,'' Williams said. "But I have five sisters and two brothers and had my share of hard times with my mom being a single parent. So I know a little about the struggle,'' quotes the article.

Williams' mother, Donna, described in an interview posted on Lauryn's internet site how her daughter got involved in athletics, specifically sprinting.

"Lauryn is embarrassed by a dog story I tell, but it’s true. She was always running around racing, which is a common childhood play activity. I knew she was fast...I used to race her for fun.

"Anyway, she had beaten everyone in the neighbourhood including the big kids. They were outside playing and we had this really big dog, a German Shepherd called Ben. He scared folks. For once he was out of the yard and somehow or other he got into a race with Lauryn, and she beat him! The kids got all excited about it and told me to come outside, as they had something to show me. I thought something was wrong. There was another dog too, a shitz tzu. They took off running, and about four houses later. Lauryn passed the dogs. It is hard to outrun a dog.

"Anyhow, Lauryn beat them and even though I knew all along that she could run fast, sometimes when God taps you on the shoulder you need to pay attention! I got on the phone immediately to Parks and Recreation, where I knew the director, and he told me who to call, which I did. Lauryn was on the track the next afternoon. They told her to run as fast as she could for as long as she could round this dinky track. Well, she ran like 12.2 and the coach was like “wow”. Lauryn made it around the track in a flash and they said she was so good that she could make it to the Olympics. I knew it too when I heard it, and 'Flash' is my nickname for her now!" (
read full interview).

A finance graduate from the University of Miami, Williams still trains at the University of Miami, and is coached by the Hurricanes' women's track coach Amy Deem.

Williams set up a scholarship fund - the Lauryn Williams Dynamic Female Athlete Scholarship Fund - last winter to assist emerging female athletes in their quest for academic and athletic excellence.

Additionally, the 23-year old reached out to Ypsilanti East Middle School in their time of need when tragedy struck their girl’s track team, donating time to raise money for the team.

Williams auctioned off an autographed pair of her competition spikes to raise money for the Ypsilanti East Middle School’s girls track team, which, in March of last year, experienced a tragic incident when a member of the team, 12-year-old Kayla Stanford, died following practice one afternoon.

Stanford's family was very touched by Williams' gesture and participated in the auction to show their gratitude for her thoughtfulness. The spikes were eventually won by Kayla’s uncle Dwight Hullm.

“I saw Lauryn compete at the Olympic trials in Sacramento," Williams' internet site quotes.

"It was very nice of her to auction off her shoes. This means a lot to the family.”

Williams supplemented the winning bid, sendng a check in the amount of $500 to Janice Sturdivant, principal of East Middle School, who was very grateful for Williams' gesture.

Williams further volunteers at Arcola Lakes Elementary School in Miami, Florida, USA assisting deaf students. A finance graduate from the University of Miami, Williams was also known to donate as much as $10,000 to Miami-area families during the Christmas holidays last year, enabling 20 families to help fulfill their Christmas wishes.

Williams also is involved in the USATF's Be a Champion youth outreach program.

''Just to know I'm making a difference in an inner-city neighborhood is gratifying,'' Williams said.

"You take for granted that everything in your life is good. I just know that different times in my life people helped me get over the hump. I call them random acts of kindness -- a friend of my mom's might buy me sneakers so I could go to a track meet, or in 2004, the Olympics, my godmother put together a fundraiser for my mom to go to Greece and we raised enough money for her, four of my sisters and another close friend.''

Williams has always maintained that hard work and being stubborn when it comes to setbacks have their ways of getting back to those who put one foot forward and continue on when times are tough.

“Hard work knows no limit," quotes her website.

"If you work hard, your opportunity will come.” One thing I would ask them to take in and apply to every part of their life, not just sports, is not to make excuses about why they can’t do something. So often, you see people who try to claim they are victims of the circumstances around them. No one is going to turn their back on someone who is trying their hardest.

"I would also say to them: “If your parents can’t afford to pay for college and you’re working hard to get there, I am sure a door will open for you. If you’re finishing behind the same people every time you get on the track, don’t take the attitude that you’ll never beat them: go home, train harder and start to beat them one by one. You may not ever make it to number one, but I guarantee when you look back from the place you’re in to the place you started, you will be proud and you will look at yourself as number one.”

Williams' mother, who teaches intensive reading and journalism at a Miami high school, said Lauryn tends to give back on the "everyday, kind of ordinary Joe level, as opposed to that big-bang, I've just built the facility, cut the ribbon and now I'll disappear level.

"It's not so much the big things that always make the difference,'' continue the Miami Herald.

Today, Williams, who competes for Nike, is trying to overcome a left hamstring injury while training for the start of the spring campaign. She ended 2006 by missing a great portion of the remainder of the European season following her injury.

Williams, who has shown great tenacity to overcome a suspect work habit to become champion, has never been injured before, but is focussed on the positive aspects of her setback.

"How do you change the world? One act of generosity at a time.''

Indeed, if the world was comprised of more Lauryn Williams types...

Lauryn Williams' website can be found at www.laurynwilliams.net

Lauryn Williams Portfolio:
  • 2006 World Indoor silver medal, 60m (7,01)
  • 2005 World Champion, 100m (10,93), 4x100m relay (41,78)
  • 2004 Olympic silver medal, 100m (10,96)
  • 2004 NCAA Champion, 100m (10,97)
  • 2003 PAN AM Champion, 100m (11,12), 4x100m relay (43,06)
  • 2002 World Junior Champion, 100m (11,33)
  • 2002 World Junior silver medal, 4x100m relay (43,66)
  • 2002 US Junior Champion, 100m (11,42)

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